Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is building support for a plan that would cut some sales taxes paid by businesses and pump money into public school construction.
He outlined his proposal in a press conference Wednesday.
Putnam wants to cut the 7 percent sales tax on energy paid by businesses by half, saving Florida businesses more than $225 million, he said. The remaining revenue would be funnelled into school maintenance and construction.
In addition, consumers wishing to purchase energy-efficient appliances would be able to take advantage of a weekend-long sales tax holiday in September.
"There is an opportunity here to support Florida's businesses, Florida’s families and consumers, and Florida’s public education system," Putnam said.
Public school systems and state universities used to receive maintenance and construction money through the Public Education Capital Outlay fund. But the money has been dwindling, since PECO dollars are generated from a state tax on cable TV, electricity and land-line telephone bills.
"It’s a tax on technologies that are not being used as much," said Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, who will sponsor the bill in the Senate.
Putnam said $225 million in new construction funding would let school systems "catch up" on deferred maintenance.
Added Flores: "Our public education institutions won't have to be coming up to Tallahassee and fighting among themselves for construction funding."
Putnam's office later released statements from education and business leaders supporting the move.
"I commend Commissioner Putnam for his willingness to respond to one of education's most critical needs..." Florida International University President Mark Rosenberg said. "We cannot allow a lack of facilities funding to limit the access and service we provide to Florida's students."
Said Florida Charter School Alliance Chairman Jim Horne: “We stand in support of this great proposal that will dramatically increase funding for education facilities. Every student deserves a learning environment that is both safe and secure but also equipped with best technology that gives Florida students real opportunity to compete in an increasingly global marketplace."